It Starts with a Troll...
Elderhold is the largest city in the known world, and the capital city of the human kingdom (known commonly as the “Elderhold Kingdom”) that covers most of the Keradorian continent.
Elderhold is a commercial, political, cultural, and religious center. With a population upwards of 100,000, practically every race and ethnicity is represented there.
Elderhold is built into the Gelathod Mountains, with the original structure developing from a series of caves on the southern face of one peak. The Gelathods stretch to the east and west of the city. Running parallel to the mountains just south of the city is the Restless River. The Restless flows east, before turning south, creating a natural barrier between Elderhold territory and the largely uncharted Endless Bog to the east. Directly south of the city lie the Golden Plains.
The earliest recorded human history took place in the caves near the top of the Gelathod mountains. This small network of caves is the earliest known refuge of the ancient nomadic humans. The refuge became the first human settlement and, in time, a powerful fortress. Through the millennia, humans have always depended on this original place of safety in desperate times. With every war and disaster that left scars on the Elderhold, its residents rebuilt the fortress even bigger and stronger. As the permanent population of Elderhold grew, a city was born. Districts emerged, with the more powerful residents of the city living nearer to the peak. A large and bustling center of trade eventually covered the entire lower region of the mountain. In the years leading up to the War of the Thorns, a vast expansion of the Third Tier was built, with massive stone platforms being built outward from the mountain, like spokes of a great wheel. During the devastation of the War of the Thorns, many refugees descended on the Elderhold. While these immigrants greatly bolstered the population and economy of Elderhold, overcrowding became a problem, and the “Fourth Tier” was born, extending at ground level from the base of the mountain.
After the War of the Thorns and the newly forged trade relations with the elven kingdom to the West, Elderhold quickly grew larger and wealthier than ever before. The newly structured government found its home in the Second Tier, with the various Offices of the Monarch building new headquarters there.
The Four Tiers
Elderhold is divided into three tiers officially, along with an unofficial tier. Each tier is further split into many districts.
The Fourth Tier
The Fourth Tier is a product of the War of the Thorns. After much of the continent was ravaged by war, a great number of refugees poured into Elderhold. When the city became overcrowded, people began setting up camps below the city, stretching out from the foot of the mountain. Much of the Fourth Tier is composed of temporary structures made to be permanent: old tents, hastily made shacks, shanty towns, and former military encampments. However, in the 50 years since the war, the growing population of this tier has managed to build numerous permanent structures, including businesses, public meeting places, warehouses, and even temples.
The Fourth Tier is largely home to outcasts. Failed businessmen, current and former criminals, the sick and the poor, and immigrants. Many in the Fourth Tier eke out an existence by scavenging through waste that comes down from the Upper Tiers. This is thought to be the origin of the term “bottom-feeders”, a pejorative often applied to residents of this tier. Despite these harsh realities, there are many third and even fourth generation residents of the Fourth Tier who are proud of the lives they and their families created from nothing.
Much of the Fourth Tier exists in the literal shadow of the rest of Elderhold, as the the Third Tier expansion towers above it in all directions.
While the Elderhold government maintains a presence in the Fourth Tier, it devotes fewer resources to policing, aiding, or governing the Fourth Tier. Instead, power structures emerge organically, as rival gangs, powerful families, and even adventuring vigilantes grapple with each other for control over the various districts.
Hollis spent much her life in this tier.
Life in the Fourth Tier is difficult and dangerous, but it is just as colorful and diverse as the rest of Elderhold. The Fourth Tier exists as a sort of city within a city, a bustling community with its own identity, its own culture, and its own rules.
The Third Tier
The Third Tier of Elderhold is the largest, both in area and population. This tier covers most of the bottom half of the mountain, and extends outward on a series of six sprawling stone platforms that reach out from the mountain like spokes of a wheel. While the far end of each platform is used for defense, each platform is home to a different industry: metalworking, arcane arts, fine goods, food from all over the world, masonry and carpentry, and professional services.These platforms converge into the central market, where seemingly any good can be found. Built into the mountain itself are older structures: many craftsmen and their residences can be found here, along with powerful trade guilds. Adokas’s employer, the Union of Dungeon Inspectors, is in this part of the city.
The Third Tier is filled with activity all hours of the day and night. People of every race and ethnicity will be found walking the streets. Despite this diversity, residents coexist relatively peacefully. The opportunities promised by this huge city give this tier a palpable sense of hope and excitement. Individual communities tend to develop around races, giving each district of the Third Tier a rich and distinct culture. Still, each race is generally hospitable, welcoming (or at the very least tolerating) any visitor to their piece of Elderhold.
In addition to trade, this Tier is home to a wide variety of arts, culture, and entertainment. From the most refined philosophical play, to the most carnal house of debauchery, the world’s leisure is at your disposal in the Third Tier.
The Second Tier
The Second Tier is the seat of government, and home to only the wealthiest and most powerful residents of Elderhold. Following the death of King Aratos at the end of the War of the Thorns, King Samuel established the Offices of the Monarch, delegating most of the governance of the kingdom to new, appointed officials. Much of the Second Tier was rebuilt to accommodate these new centers of government, giving this tier a more planned and artificial feel. Still, among the harsh stone edifices of the Offices are lush green gardens (one of them even being a zoo). On the eastern end of the Second Tier sits the Library of Light, a cavernous house of learning and arcane study. Hollis served her prison sentence here, handling dangerous books about monsters.
While access to the lower tiers is largely open, travel to the Second Tier is closely monitored. Guards often turn away suspicious visitors. Access to the Second Tier is limited to two sets of stairs, one exclusively for government workers, and the other for general access. A third entrance (also closely monitored) connects only to the library, in order to accommodate the public.
Residential space in the Second Tier is quite limited and, as such, remains a special privilege granted only to certain members of government, or merchants wealthy enough to pay the enormous fee for access. Living here is, however, the ultimate status symbol in Elderhold. A small number of luxurious taverns, theaters, and baths exist to entertain the residents of this tier.
The First Tier
Sitting near the peak of the mountain is the First Tier. The Monarch, King Pelthas and his Queen, Leonor, live in the Royal Keep, built from the very caves in which Elderhold was founded. As such, the most historically and religiously important places in the kingdom are located in this tier.
Only the Monarch and his or her court live in this tier of the city. Access to the First Tier is granted only by invitation, or during special holidays and observances.